Daniel Larison

After Ratification

Fred Kaplan has a good article summing up the political results of the treaty debate:

And so the Republican leadership made this a purely political battle and—fresh off what had seemed a triumphant election season—suffered an astonishingly egregious defeat.

It is extremely doubtful, for instance, that the Obama administration will ever again bargain over national-security issues with Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., the minority whip.

For reasons that nobody can quite explain, Kyl had managed in the past few years to cut a profile as the “go-to” Republican on all matters nuclear. The conventional wisdom was that if Kyl endorsed the treaty, it would pass; if he didn’t, it wouldn’t.

And so, the White House and the Pentagon sent high-level emissaries to Kyl’s lair during the Senate’s recess to negotiate a deal, offering, among other enticements, an extra $4 billion, on top of the $80 billion already committed over the next decade, to “modernize” the nuclear-weapons infrastructure.

Kyl took the goodies but came out against the treaty anyway. So Obama and his aides did something no legislative powerhouse should ever let happen—they went around him, treating him as just another senator, and they won.

Kyl limps away from this face-off gravely wounded—a leader unable to deliver either on his promises or on his threats.

Assuming that the treaty is ratified as expected, there are several gratifying outcomes here. Most important, a treaty important to American national security will be ratified despite the often ignorant and at times flat-out dishonest opposition of people speaking for no more than 20-30% of the country. It is not all that often that sound policy and public opinion are on the same side, so it’s worth noting when it happens. Sound policy seems to have prevailed over hawkish demagoguery. Kyl’s gambit to run out the clock seems to have failed, and the automatic deference afforded to him on these issues after he orchestrated the defeat of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is most likely at an end.

The side of the debate championed by Romney, Palin, Thune, Santorum, and Bolton has lost, and the virtually unanimous opposition to the treaty from movement conservative leaders, think tanks, and magazines has been ignored. For once, deceit and fearmongering did not win the day in a foreign policy argument. More substantively, U.S.-Russian relations will not be disrupted, our allies in Europe will continue to see their security enhanced by the thaw between Washington and Moscow, and inspections of Russia’s arsenal will resume to our benefit. The harm to U.S. credibility and diplomacy that I had feared would result from the treaty’s defeat will not materialize. All in all, this should prove to be a very good week for the United States and our allies.


The Republicans Supporting The Treaty

The motion to invoke cloture on the treaty passed 67-28. There were no big surprises in terms of the supporters, as all of the ayes came from Senators who had stated their support for ratification, but it is still interesting to look at where the Republican support came from. Two of the ayes on cloture were from retiring members, Bennett and Voinovich, and four of the ayes came from Republicans running for re-election in 2012 (and two of these were Northeastern moderates, Brown and Snowe). Collins was the other moderate Northeasterner supporting cloture. Murkowski was another aye, and given her experience with the party this year it is no surprise that she would feel no obligation to follow the leadership on this issue. So seven of the eleven Republicans voting for cloture are either departing from the Senate or for various reasons are relatively weaker partisans than the rest of the caucus. Gregg did not cast a vote on cloture, but he is a likely yes vote on the treaty, and he is another outgoing member and a Northeastern Republican.

Notably, four of the ayes were Southerners: Isakson, Corker, Cochran, and Alexander. Corker and Alexander have obvious interests in making sure that the modernization deal goes through, since Oak Ridge would receive additional funding as a result, and Isakson and Corker have been considered a likely supporters of ratification since the committee vote. Cochran has been an unexpected, late addition to the pro-treaty side, but like Alexander he is not up for re-election until 2014, and he has had a relatively moderate voting record as measured by ACU ratings. The other seven were the most likely supporters of the treaty because of their weaker partisan attachments, retirements, or particular interest in the treaty (Lugar), but it is really these Southerners that helped clear the way for ratification. Corker potentially has the most to lose, as he is the only one of these Southern Republicans up for re-election in 2012, and he has been specifically targeted by the Heritage Foundation’s political action organization and threatened with a primary challenge backed by the National Republican Trust PAC. To his credit, it appears that Corker has completely ignored this pressure, and it is hard to see how support for arms control will fuel a backlash among primary voters, but of all the treaty supporters he is the most exposed to political risk.


The Sad Limits of Michael Gerson

“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” Mr. Kissinger said. “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

“I know,” Nixon responded. “We can’t blow up the world because of it.” ~The New York Times

Michael Gerson wrote an entire column based on the first part of this quote without so much as mentioning Nixon’s response. For Gerson, Kissinger’s quote reflects the basic weakness and limitations of foreign policy realism, as if the apparent indifference or callousness of the remark can be divorced from the real-world implications of a potential conflict with the then-USSR. I suppose I could argue that Gerson would prefer that the U.S. start WWIII for the sake of high ideals, but that wouldn’t really be fair to him. As he often does, Gerson has struck a pose of moral outrage without thinking through any of the implications of what he’s discussing. It is fair to point out that this is typical of a lot of foreign policy “idealists,” who seem to think that the phrase “let justice be done, though the heavens fall” is not an example of absurd extremism but a how-to guide for policy-making.

The scenario Kissinger and Nixon were discussing here involved intervening militarily against a major, nuclear-armed power because of outrageous crimes taking place in the other country. One reason why realists typically look askance at such humanitarian interventionism is that they are concerned primarily with the national interest, and another is that they also try to pay attention to possible consequences of intervention. If a government is committing horrible crimes, but intervening to stop those crimes could quickly lead to global thermonuclear war in which some large part of the world is annihilated, it is not only prudent to not intervene, but it would be insane to argue for intervention.

It is an exaggeration to say that Jackson-Vanik was “a pivot point in the Cold War.” Arguably far more important as a matter of human rights monitoring and support for dissidents were the Helsinki Accords, which was one of the embodiments of detente policy. Kissinger didn’t much care for Helsinki, either, but as Secretary of State under Ford he was involved in the negotiations. Helsinki represented one of the successes of detente, and its success is hard to separate from the generally realist approach of the Nixon and Ford administrations to U.S.-Soviet relations. I’m not interested in defending Kissinger or Nixon personally, and as Prof. Walt notes Kissinger supported military interventions then and later that most realists opposed, but if we’re going to judge foreign policy realism based on the effects of detente policy we need to look much more broadly at what it actually achieved.

Update: For whatever it’s worth, Kissinger has written a response to Gerson that is worth reading.


Conservatives and Treaties

I see no reason to attribute conservative opposition to New START to anything other than conservative opposition to all treaties. ~Jonathan Bernstein

As Patrick Appel says, Senate Republicans have not always been so reluctant to support arms control treaties. Kyl is a good example of this. The Moscow Treaty negotiated and signed by George W. Bush was ratified without a single Senator voting against it, and it reduced both arsenals much more than New START will, and it had no verification provisions. Kyl praised the simplicity and genius of SORT at the time. We are now treated to endless complaints from Kyl and others that New START’s verification provisions are inadequate.

A distinction needs to be made between Senate Republicans, who have typically supported Republican Presidents’ arms control treaties in the past and have now gone into opposition, and conservative activists and hard-line former officials who are opposed to arms control as such (e.g., John Bolton, Richard Perle, etc.). There was opposition to the treaties negotiated by Reagan and Bush from conservative activists and lower-level officials, but the difference this time is that those lower-level former officials are now treated as authorities by Senate Republicans when they were previously overruled or dismissed. It seems to me that this is the real political significance of Republican opposition to the treaty that goes beyond anti-Obama positioning. The older generation of Republican realists and internationalists is passing away, the hard-line deputies who filled the lower ranks of previous administrations have depressingly become the new Republican authorities on national security, and they are providing movement conservatives with ready-made talking points that flatter the movement’s conception of itself as one that takes national security very seriously.

It is telling for the future of the GOP that all of the likely 2012 presidential candidates, except for Gary Johnson, flatly oppose the treaty. Somehow opposing New START has become a requirement for rising Republican leaders to establish their credibility on national security in the eyes of movement conservatives. Instead of rejecting the Bush administration’s foreign policy for its recklessness, aggression, and waste of resources, most Republicans seem to have convinced themselves that the main problems with the Bush years were lack of zeal and too much willingness to accommodate other states in the second term.

Update: I should add that Michael Krepon made a very similar argument about the intra-GOP situation last month, and part of that post was in the back of my mind when I was writing this.


U.S.-Russian Relations and the GOP

So here’s a thought experiment: If the same treaty had been negotiated by President John McCain, what would the final vote in the Senate have been? My sense is that it would’ve been very different indeed. And that means that even on something like a nuclear-arms treaty with Russia, partisan incentives trump policy considerations. There’s something deeply scary about that. ~Ezra Klein

I’m not sure that it is scary so much as it is aggravating. What it shows is that Republicans in Congress and the conservative movement are capable of dissenting from bipartisan foreign policy consensus, but only when it would be the most foolish and harmful to do so. Bipartisan consensus on foreign policy is very often destructive and dedicated to shoring up U.S. hegemony through countless commitments that we can’t afford and shouldn’t be trying to maintain. This consensus has endorsed dangerous policies from invading Iraq to expanding NATO to isolating and antagonizing Iran, and on all of these Republicans in Congress and movement conservatives have largely been reliable supporters. We can expect that they will continue to rally behind such policies in the future, because they are exercises in American power projection, because they are confrontational, and because they are incredibly short-sighted and reckless. In this case, their usual support of the foreign policy consensus would be constructive and welcome, and it is only now that they have gone into a position of total, irreconcilable rejectionism when it is least merited.

Partisan incentives explain some of it. There will always be a negative Republican reaction against any foreign policy initiative by a Democratic President on the assumption that it must somehow “weaken” America, regardless of the substance of the issue or the truth of the claim. Even when Democratic Presidents have fairly “centrist” and even hawkish foreign policies, as Carter, Clinton and now Obama have had, the default reaction among Republicans always seems to be to try to out-hawk the other side. This is what most Republicans seem to fall back on when they are unsure how to respond.

Partisanship doesn’t explain all of it. We shouldn’t underestimate the need to vindicate the confrontational and aggressive foreign policy of the past decade, especially as it relates to U.S.-Russian relations. If New START failed, that would undermine the “reset,” and the “reset” represents everything about Obama’s foreign policy that most Republicans hate. The “reset” approach recognizes that Russia has legitimate interests, it avoids needlessly provoking Russia, and it assumes that the U.S. and Russia have some common interests that can best be served through cooperation. Many critics of the “reset” regard Russia as an antagonist and even as an ideological competitor (because they mistakenly believe that Moscow wants to promote its brand of authoritarian populism beyond its borders), and naturally find the idea of treating Russia as anything else to be repugnant. Republican hawks tend to view Russia policy through a simple binary: appeasement or going on the offensive. If the U.S. isn’t on the offensive, it must be in retreat.

That brings me to John McCain. It is possible that McCain would have negotiated an arms control treaty with Russia, but my guess is that a McCain administration would have adopted the antagonistic attitude towards Russia that McCain has had for over a decade. He did not assume that U.S.-Russian relations had deteriorated because of U.S. policies and actions, and it seems unlikely that he would have attempted to improve those relations. Instead, he would have concluded that the Bush administration erred during its second term by failing to be forceful and combative enough. Instead of backing away from NATO expansion and the missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, he would have pursued both. Famously, he identified completely with Georgia during the August 2008 war. More recently, he has been agitating for a more confrontational and provocative approach towards Russia:

We need to stop overstating the successes of our cooperation. And we need to begin dealing with Russia more as the modest power it is, not the great power it once was. What that means, in part, is being more assertive in the defense of our interests and values.

For starters, we need to resume the sale of defensive arms to Georgia. Our allies in central and eastern Europe view Georgia as a test case of whether the United States will stand by them or not. Russia views Georgia as a test case, too – of how much it can get away with in Georgia, and if there then elsewhere. It is the policy of our government to support Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO. And yet for two years, mostly out of deference to Russia, defensive arms sales have not been authorized for Georgia. This has to change. At a minimum we should provide Georgia with early warning radars and other basic capabilities to strengthen its defenses.

Had McCain become President instead, it is quite possible that this treaty would never have been signed and would never have come to a vote.


Take It Or Leave It

As I mentioned the other day, treaty opponents have a very curious attitude towards the Russian government right now. On the one hand, they are deeply suspicious of it. The moment that the treaty is ratified, Moscow will somehow use the irrelevant, non-binding language of the preamble to pressure the U.S. to “constrain” missile defense plans. At the same time, they take everything Russian officials say at face value with remarkable credulity. If the Russians claim that they will withdraw from the treaty if the U.S. presses ahead with missile defense, treaty opponents believe that this is gospel. They think this proves that Moscow will abandon a treaty that the opponents say the Russians desperately want in order to protest a missile defense system the Russians cannot stop anyway. That doesn’t make any sense. It never occurs to treaty opponents that this is intended to spin the treaty as favorable to Russian interests when it clearly gives them nothing on missile defense.

At the same time, if Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov tries to minimize the impact non-ratification or delay will have on the U.S.-Russian relationship, that can’t be damage control. It must be a prophecy of the future. It’s true that New START ratification is not a make-or-break moment in U.S.-Russian relations, because the common interests of the two governments are significant enough that they don’t hinge on any one agreement, but up until now Russia has received nothing from the “reset” aside from the removal of a few U.S. provocations. If the Russian government can point to treaty ratification as evidence that the improved relationship with the U.S. delivers some tangible benefits to Russia, that will make future cooperation easier, and it increases the chances of successful negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons. If Moscow has nothing to show for the last two years of cooperation, their government may conclude that they have other options, and the U.S. and our allies can forget about any future negotiations for quite some time.

The National Review editors call for the usual changes to be made to the treaty. Since Sergei Lavrov has become the new guiding light for them, perhaps they should ponder what he said just the other day about making changes to the treaty:

“The START agreement, which was drafted on the basis of strict parity, completely meets the national interests of both Russia and the U.S.,” Lavrov told Interfax.

The minister added the treaty could not be reopened, becoming the subject of new negotiations. Lavrov’s warning came just hours after U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff’ Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen urged congressional leaders through a letter to quickly ratify the agreement.

Calling for the treaty to be delayed so that it can be revised and re-worked is a call for scrapping any agreement with Russia. Instead of some ideal verification regime that is probably either unnecessary or impractical, the U.S. will have no ability to verify anything through inspections. There will be no “better deal” for Republicans to get next year. This isn’t an omnibus bill. The arms reduction agreement will fall apart if it is altered enough to satisfy the treaty’s unreasonable critics. The good news is that it seems that there will be no need to satisfy them, as there will be just enough support for the treaty in its current form.

Update: Isakson and Bennett have declared for the treaty. After all of his complaining last week, I didn’t think Alexander would support the treaty in this session, but it looks as if he realizes that the treaty will be ratified anyway and doesn’t want to be on the other side. As expected, Murkowski will also support the treaty. Resistance to the treaty is now reportedly crumbling.

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How Is Failing to Interfere in Belarus Proof of “The Decline of the West”?

A month ago, Anne Applebaum urged a new round of NATO expansion, which I pointed out was a terrible idea. These were her closing words:

We could continue that process [NATO expansion]. The stakes are lower – 2010 is not 1990, and the countries outside NATO are poorer and more turbulent than even those that have recently joined. Nevertheless, the very existence of a credible Western military alliance remains – yes, really – an encouragement to others on Europe’s borders. This is a uniquely propitious moment. Right now there is a pro-Western government in Moldova; Ukraine’s geopolitics are up in the air; elections are due to take place in Belarus in December [bold mine-DL]. We in the West might have gone sour on ourselves, but Europeans on our borders still find us magnetically attractive. But we will only remain so if we try.

This week in Belarus, we are seeing what the “uniquely propitious moment” means in practice. Following the rigged re-election of Belarus’ ruler, government forces violently attacked opposition rallies. Applebaum has returned with a new column to try to exploit the brutal crackdown in Minsk that took place yesterday. Having described the terrible violence meted out to opposition supporters, she writes:

All in all, it was a stunning display of the regime’s weakness: Indeed, the violence that unfolded in the wake of Alexander Lukashenko’s fourth presidential election “victory” can only be explained as a sign of the Belarusan dictator’s failure. After the polls closed, Lukashenko claimed to have received nearly 80 percent of the vote. But politicians who are that popular have no need to beat, arrest and harass their opponents, send provocateurs into a crowd or shut down Web sites.

Certainly, in some grander moral scheme, Lukashenko is an abysmal failure. Like other dictators, he rules by force and repression, and he likely does not command anything like the broad support reflected in the official results. I would caution against assuming that Lukashenko is as unpopular as Applebaum claims, if for no other reason than that this is what virtually everyone kept saying about political upheaval in Iran last year to their chagrin. Nonetheless, it is a serious mistake to assume that the use of coercion by brutal authoritarian regimes is proof of exceptional weakness. Even if a majority loathes Lukashenko, which is easy to imagine, that doesn’t mean that there is any alternative that can replace him. This is the story in the post-Soviet world from Belarus to Uzbekistan: authoritarian presidents dominating weak or non-existent civil society. Compared to more legitimate, consensual forms of government, dictatorships are politically weak, as they cannot count on the ready deference and obedience that constitutional and elected governments enjoy, but in terms of political power inside their own countries these displays are anything but signs of weakness.

Lukashenko’s weakness isn’t what really interests Applebaum. She wants to take this opportunity to revisit the idea that we in the West have somehow failed Belarus and all of the states neighboring Russia, as if it were the responsibility of the U.S. or our European allies to save Belarus. Applebaum writes:

This, then, is what the “decline of the West” looks like in the eastern half of Europe: The United States and Europe, out of money and out of ideas, scarcely fund the Belarusan opposition. Russia, flush with oil money once again, has agreed to back Lukashenko and fund his regime. Let’s hope it costs them a lot more than they expect.

If funding the Belarusian opposition is Applebaum’s example of an idea, I suppose “the West” must be out of ideas. It is hardly a “decline of the West” if the same authoritarian ruler presides in Minsk as he has for the last two decades. Neither is it “Eastern aggression,” as the title of her column so dramatically puts it. On the contrary, it is quite obviously the maintenance of the status quo. After the temporary rift between Lukashenko and Moscow for the last few years, Belarus is more or less back where it has been for most of the post-Cold War era. This is in many ways unfortunate for Belarus, and not particularly desirable for Belarus’ immediate neighbors, but perhaps one reason why Westerners are unwilling to devote more of their limited resources to Belarus is that they conclude that they have no vital interests in Belarus. This is the correct assessment.

What could be better evidence of a West bereft of ideas than the proposal to resume the eastward expansion of NATO? Despite the lack of suitable candidates among the remaining ex-Soviet republics, and despite the lack of any strategic rationale for continued expansion, Applebaum was urging on expansion just a month ago and named the basketcase of Europe as one of her principal candidates. Let me suggest that any strategy that involves significant funding of the political opposition of Belarus is not worth the time, money or effort that would be expended. We are finally enjoying a temporary pause in the unremitting provocations in post-Soviet space that defined U.S. policy there for most of the last twenty years. Instead of being caught in a downward spiral, U.S.-Russian relations are improving for a change. What could possibly be gained by going back down the road of provocation and confrontation that Applebaum recommends?


New Issue of TAC

As usual, the new January issue of TAC has many excellent articles and columns that I recommend to everyone. There were a couple of these that especially caught my attention. Bill Kauffman writes on Bob La Follette and Bob Dylan in the context of Upper Midwestern antiwar activism, and bids adieu to outgoing Wisconsin Sen. Feingold. On a related topic, Chase Madar explodes the enduring myth of interwar “isolationism” and identifies the political tradition that produced many of the critics of U.S. intervention overseas:

One of the ironies of this legend is that those interwar senators retrospectively tagged as isolationists—known in their time as “Peace Progressives”—were among the most outward-looking politicians of their era. The Peace Progressives were mostly Western and Midwestern Republicans, most prominent among them Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, William Borah (“The Lion of Idaho”), and Hiram Johnson of California. They successfully rolled back longstanding U.S. military occupations in the Caribbean and Central America, and their efforts arguably averted war with Mexico in the 1920s. Borah took the lead in forging multilateral arms-reduction treaties with Great Britain and Japan.

Read the entire article. Incidentally, I have also observed many, many times how meaningless and untrue the conventional story of American “isolationism” is. As Ron Paul has said, if there are any isolationists around today it is those who wish to sanction, penalize, and attack other countries who deserve the name.

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Why Now?

Amid Mitch McConnell’s whining about a lack of time and the need for delay, it is worth saying a few words on why consideration of the treaty in the current session was necessary. Especially because the vote will be very close, and ratification will hinge on a handful of votes, it is important to counter the common complaint that the “rush” to ratify has forced otherwise sympathetic Republicans to oppose the treaty. We are not watching the defection of Republicans from the pro-treaty camp on account of procedural issues, but rather the revelation of Republican opposition that was already there. The treaty has not been rushed, but supposing that it had been that would be an exceptionally poor reason to vote down an important arms control treaty. Obviously, most of the people claiming that the treaty has been “rushed” also claim that the treaty is flawed. Since their substantive arguments about the treaty’s “flaws” are very poor, they are taking cover behind a procedural complaint to lend their basically indefensible position some credibility in the eyes of people who haven’t been following the debate very closely. Anti-START Republicans are opponents in search of pretexts, and a procedural argument about the lame-duck session is another one of these.

Once one accepts that the treaty is important for national security, because it re-establishes a needed verification regime, then the sooner verification can resume the better it will be for the U.S. As a delay until next year would have put off the resumption of inspections for many more months, it would have been a bad idea even if the new members of the Senate would have supported the treaty. As we all understand, virtually all of the new Republican Senators would not vote for this treaty in its current form, and their involvement in the ratification debate would make it that much more difficult to approve the treaty. If every largely sympathetic Republican* voted for the treaty this week, the treaty would get 10 Republican votes in this Congress now that Cochran has declared his support. It is still possible that the treaty will fall short later this week. Once the new Congress is seated, three of those votes are automatically gone: Bennett, Voinovich, and Gregg are retiring, and they will be replaced by Senators that are much less likely to support the treaty. As the number of sympathetic Republicans shrinks by three in January, the overall number of Republicans increases by five. That means that the treaty will probably have eight fewer votes than it does now, and there simply aren’t that many votes to lose.

* Lugar, Collins, Snowe, Voinovich, Gregg, Isakson, Murkowski, Corker, and Bennett, plus Cochran

Update: Scott Brown has announced he will support the treaty. Based on his ties with McCain and his skepticism earlier in the year, this was by no means certain. It’s a very good sign for the ratification vote later this week. Corker is also on board.


New START’s Preamble

In sum, the Republicans — who have been denied access to the negotiating history — suspect (correctly, I think) that the Russians don’t share the administration’s understanding of the treaty. For, if President Putin [sic] would readily agree that the preamble is not binding and there is no linkage between offensive and defensive weapons, then why wouldn’t the Obama administration simply ask for that confirmation? ~Jennifer Rubin

Of all the strange arguments against the treaty, this one has to be the strangest. The preamble is non-binding. What matters for the purposes of ratification is how our government understands the preamble. The resolution of ratification is one way of expressing this understanding. The resolution can be amended without Russian approval, and it is legally binding on future administrations. Treaty opponents keep insisting on amending non-binding language in the premable because they don’t actually want to improve the treaty. If they did, they would make amendments to the resolution, and give their recommendations the force of law. That isn’t what they want. As they have made quite clear, they want to prevent ratification. They may succeed, but no one should have any illusions that this has anything to do with defending American security and rights.

Treaty opponents claim to be concerned with the possibility that the treaty limits missile defense. It does not. The administration insists that it does not understand the treaty to limit missile defense in any meaningful way. Treaty opponents’ repeated demands for assurances from the Kremlin have a strained, desperate quality to them. As the Arms Control Association’s summary states very clearly, there is nothing at all remarkable about the statement in the preamble:

Finally, both sides have made unilateral statements about the relationship between missile defense deployments and the treaty. These statements are not legally binding, and similar statements were issued with previous treaties, including START I.

As for “linkage,” it is common sense to acknowledge that there is a relationship (or “interrelationship,” as the preamble says) between offensive and defensive arms. Acknowledging the existence of such a relationship is very different from stating that defensive arms are unacceptable, should not be developed, or must be limited. The preamble says nothing like that. This is the precise language from the preamble:

Recognizing the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced, and that current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties [bold mine-DL],

In other words, the preamble includes an acknowledgment by the Russians that U.S. missile defense does not undermine the Russian strategic arsenal. What this means is that the preamble rejects a standard Russian complaint against U.S. missile defense. Of course, the preamble is non-binding. The preamble does not require the Russians to embrace U.S. missile defense plans, but neither does it limit what the U.S. can do. One could say with even more justification that this passage in the preamble affirms U.S. missile defense. If the preamble were legally binding, it would be members of the Duma complaining about this section rather than U.S. Senators. However, the discussion is irrelevant because the preamble is non-binding. Objections to the treaty on account of this non-binding language are without merit. It drives home just how pathetically weak the anti-ratification position is that this is one of its better arguments.

Update: In an unexpected boost for ratification, Thad Cochran of Mississippi has announced that he will support the treaty. That significantly improves the treaty’s chances.

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